2+2 DIALOGUE AND COMCASA
The first India-US 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi on 6 September 2018. As per Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, the dialogue “was more than a meeting. We view it as a strategic milestone. It was a long time in the making between the two world powers, the worlds two largest democracies to talk about our shared vision for the future”. This dialogue will now be held on an annual basis.
During the 2+2 dialogue, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman held crucial talks with their counterparts US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis. During this interaction, various initiatives were taken to build out India’s unique status as a major US defence partner.
During the meeting, the two sides shared their vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the ideas set forth by Prime Minister Modi and President Trump in their respective speeches at the Shangri La dialogue in Singapore and at Da Nang in Vietnam.
The two countries agreed to begin negotiations on the Industrial Security Annex, which will support a closer defence industry collaboration and to pursue an agreement to share geospatial information. Also announced was the creation of the first US-India tri-service military exercise. It was during this meeting that the Communications and Information Security Memorandums of Agreement (COMCASA) was finalised and signed that will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing US-origin platforms. It is one of the four foundational agreements that the US signs with allies and close partnersto facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
In the US, CISMOA (Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement) is intended to provide the documentary justification to release command, control, communications, computer intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) data to a foreign country. This includes data feeds that provide the “common operational/tactical picture.” This name was changed to COMCASA to reflect its India-specific nature. COMCASA is thus an India-specific version of CISMOA. It comes into force immediately, and is valid for a period 10 years. It allows India to procure/transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C- 17, C-130 and P-8Is. Currently, these platforms use commercially available communication systems.
Since 2010, India has purchased defence equipment worth over USD 15 billion from the US making the US the second- largest supplier of defence hardware to India. Defence purchases include frontline equipment such as Chinook medium lift helicopters, Apache helicopter gunships, P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime surveillance aircraft, C-130 medium transport aircraft and C-17 heavy lift aircraft. Repeat orders have been placed for some of the above purchases, which has partially reduced India’s dependancy on Russian equipment. Recently, India has also agreed to purchase 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters worth USD 1.8 billion from the US as a government-to-government (G to G) deal. These helicopters are required to operate from Indian warships. India is also seeking to purchase MQ-9 ‘Guardian’ High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones from the US.
Earlier, when India was offered the CISMOA, concerns were expressed over the following issues:
◦ It may increase pressure on India to source all of its COMSEC equipment from US vendors in the future.
◦ Its implementation would involve data sharing that could reveal the location of Indian military assets to third parties.
◦ Washington could monitor Indian communications in operations where the United States may be neutral or even adversarial.
◦ A lot of Russian-origin and indigenous Indian military platforms may not be compatible with this security equipment.
With the signing of COMCASA, which is specific to India, it is presumed that all these concerns have been adequately addressed.
The Indian Army and Kazakhstan Army are all set to train together for a fortnight from 10 Sep 2018near Otar Military Base, Kazakhstan. The Indian contingent comprises of one company from 5th Battalion The Ladakh Scouts Regiment while the contingent from Kazakhstan Army is a company from Military Base 85395. This is first ever Company Group level Exercise indicating evolving bilateral relation between the two nations. This is also the first time that a Ladakh Scouts battalion raised on Sons of Soil concept is participating in an international outbound exercise. The exercise is expected to contribute immensely in developing optimum integration and mutual comprehension, techniques and procedures. The Indian contingent has arrived at Kazakhstan to a warm welcome.
HAIFA DAY COMMEMORATION
A contingent from the Indian Army led by Maj Gen. Vikram Dogra paid homage at the war cemetery at Haifa on 06 Sep 2018. This was part of the functions to mark the centenary of the Battle of Haifa, where in 1918, three Indian state cavalry regiments defeated a much larger force of the Ottoman empire. The charge by the Cavalry is also the last successful such charge on horseback in history. PM Narendra Modi had visited this site in 2017 and laid a wreath at the war cemetery. Subsequently, Teen Murti Memorial at Delhi was renamed as the Teen Murti-Haifa Memorial.
The contingent led by Maj Gen. Vikram Dev Dogra also comprised of personnel from 61 Cavalry which was formed from one of the squadrons of Jodhpur Lancers that had taken part in the attack on Haifa. The guard of honour was presented by Indian troops of the Indian Unit part of the UN peace keeping forces. The mayor of Haifa and India’s Ambassador to Israel were also present. Brig Jodha who is the grandson of Maj Dalpat Singh who was martyred in this attack was also part of the delegation. The ceremony was attended by approximately 300 people including ambassadors and Defence Attaches of a number of countries. The IDF band was in attendance and played the national anthems of India and Israel.